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Seeking Clean Drinking Water
Other problems that cannot be easily identified include:
- Chlorine Byproducts - created when chlorine reacts with other substances in water.
- Toxic Elements - such as hexavalent chromium, arsenic and lead.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - include commercial chemicals and pesticides.
- Microorganisms - include cysts, bacteria, and viruses that can live in water.
The above contaminants are not necessarily in your water. The only way to be certain is to have your water tested.
Options for Cleaner Water
The good news is that there are a number of options available for improving your drinking water:
Although it's no longer the most popular drinking water alternative (41 percent of WQA survey respondents use home water treatment devices while 39 percent use bottled water), bottled water remains a strong second. Unfortunately, the variety of bottled waters (spring, purified, distilled, etc.) can make it difficult to make a decision. And bottled water is expensive, often costing more than $1 per gallon, and cumbersome to carry home from the store.
Activated carbon is used in a number of devices, including filter carafes, faucet-mounted filters, countertop units, and under-the-sink systems to reduce chlorine, VOCs, tastes, odors and, in some cases, lead, MTBE, and cysts. Systems of this type normally treat only your drinking water and don't filter the water used for washing dishes, hands, etc., at the kitchen sink. Filter cartridges must be changed regularly to ensure continued contaminant reduction. Choose a system that measures your water usage and shuts off to prevent filter overuse and alert you when a filter change is necessary. Most systems can be installed by a do-it-yourselfer.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) Systems
Reverse osmosis systems are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the EPA as one of the most effective ways of protecting residential drinking water. These very popular, professionally installed systems utilize a semipermeable membrane to reduce contaminants. When water is forced against the membrane, a portion of it passes through, while impurities are left behind to be carried away.
Reverse osmosis is effective against dissolved salts, suspended solids, dissolved chemicals, and other contaminants invisible to the naked eye. When choosing an RO system, look for a unit with a high efficiency rating. Certain systems also employ a membrane rinse feature that cleans the membrane with the high-quality water produced by the system to prolong its life and ensure that it continues to produce only the best-quality water. Systems that do not clean themselves or that only clean themselves with untreated water are not as effective.
One of the most important considerations and one of the best indicators of overall system quality is the RO membrane warranty. Look for a system that offers a full membrane replacement warranty (not just a pro-rated warranty) that covers membrane performance for several years.
Look for Certified Products
NSF International and WQA certify water treatment devices and ensure that they perform according to manufacturers' claims. Look for the NSF and WQA seals on the products you're considering and review the list of contaminants the systems are certified to remove as well as the system performance data. Use the information from several products, as well as the product warranties and features to make an educated purchase decision.
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